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Karl Baron vom und zum Stein, Nassau Memorandum on Administrative Reform in Prussia (June 1807)

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[ . . . ]

The state bureaucracy must not be replaced by a meager and tottering rule by a few estate owners; instead, what matters is that all owners of significant property of any kind participate in the administration of provincial affairs so that they are all bound to the state with equal obligations and powers. Thus, the Kreistage [district assemblies] will include noble landowners and deputies who have been elected from the other municipal and rural communities; but only the owners of property that yields a considerable, debt-free rent are eligible for election to the post of Landtag deputy.

The internal affairs of the province are debated at the Landtage [provincial assemblies], which are made up of the deputies from the districts; these affairs encompass, for example, the Provincial Law Code, the mitigation and determination of the condition of the peasants, the domestic police, institutions for education and poor relief, the improvement of the land through a division of the commons [Gemeinheitsteilung], drainage, roads, water construction, and so on; finally, the approval of the withdrawal of the funds necessary to carry out these plans from the provincial budget. The Landtag proposes deputies, from among whom the king selects a proportional number to work on provincial affairs as members of the Kammer Kollegien. And I prefer this arrangement to the transfer of certain branches of affairs to a special rural collegium, because it prevents the emergence of the inevitable frictions between various competing agencies and preserves amity and a communal spirit. [ . . . ]

But savings in administrative expenses is not the most important benefit to come from the proposed participation of owners in the provincial administration; far more important is the invigoration of the communal spirit and the civic sense, the utilization of dormant or misdirected forces and of scattered knowledge, the harmony between the spirit of the nation, its views and needs, and those of the state agencies, the revival of a feeling for the fatherland, independence, and national honor.

The excessive formality and mechanistic service of the Kollegien will be destroyed by the introduction of people from the tangle of practical life, and they will be replaced by a lively, forward-driving, creative spirit, and by a wealth of views and feelings derived from the abundance of nature.

There is so little shortage of capable men among the class of property owners that the government has no reason to fear that their involvement will have an [adverse] effect on the maintenance of domestic peace. The number of educated and sensible men among all classes of inhabitants of the old provinces of the Prussian state is so high that there can be no shortage of capable men who are endowed with practical knowledge and who will successfully lead the sections assigned to them. [ . . . ]

Source of original German text: Freiherr vom Stein: Briefe und amtliche Schriften [Baron vom Stein. Letters and Official Writings]. Edited by Erich Botzenhart, newly published by Walther Hubatsch. vol. 2, part 1. Newly edited by Peter G. Thielen. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1959, pp. 382, 386, 389-95.

Reprinted in Walter Demel and Uwe Puschner, eds., Von der Französischen Revolution bis zum Wiener Kongreß 1789-1815 [From the French Revolution to the Congress of Vienna, 1789-1815]. Deutsche Geschichte in Quellen und Darstellung, edited by Rainer A. Müller, volume 6. Stuttgart: P. Reclam, 1995, pp. 137-44.

Translaton: Thomas Dunlap

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